Current Research


Survey of the Schooner Pathfinder

The summer of 2014 marked a unique year for shipwreck discovery and identification with an astounding number of vessels washing out of the sand up and down the coast of Lake Michigan. The schooner Pathfinder is one such wreck that was surveyed by a team of archaeologists from the Wisconsin Historical Society in August of this year.

The schooner Pathfinder is a 635-ton, three-masted schooner built in Detroit, Michigan, by Campbell, Owen & Company, in 1869. She sailed in the Great Lakes iron ore trade until she was caught in a gale north of Two Rivers Light in November of 1886, and was considered to be a total loss because she sank into a "bed of quicksand" just off shore of Two Creeks. Today the remains of the vessel lie in 15 feet of water, with most of her lower section intact, including a large portion of her iron ore cargo. The lack of zebra and quagga mussels on parts of the vessel's hull indicate that until recently, most of the vessel was covered by sand. Archaeological investigations have discovered multiple areas in which the vessel was "strengthened" and repaired following multiple collisions. Although in shallow water, the vessel maintains excellent integrity.
Survey of the Scow-schooner Success

During summer 2014, a team of archaeologists from the Wisconsin Historical Society has continued documenting Wisconsin's historic scow schooners. This study began in 2005 following the discovery of the Ocean Wave off Door County, and continued this summer with the archaeological documentation of the scow Success.

The Success is a 151-ton, two-masted scow schooner built in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, by Julius Johnson, in 1875. She sailed in the Lake Michigan lumber trade until she was caught in a storm while loading wood in Whitefish Bay and was pushed aground on the beach in November of 1896. Today the remains of the vessel lie in 8 feet of water, with most of her lower section intact, just off shore. The lack of zebra and quagga mussels on the vessel's hull indicate that she was only recently uncovered from the sand. Archaeological investigations indicate that the Success was a transitional vessel, implementing building techniques seen in San Francisco scow construction and no where else in the Great Lakes. Though in shallow water, many of the vessel's sailing implements remain on the site, including wire rigging, dead eyes, the bilge pump, and centerboard.

This documentation adds to the information already collected on historic scow schooners in Wisconsin waters, the most recent of which was the survey of the Silver Lake. The Silver Lake is a 105-ton, two-masted scow schooner that was built in Little Point Sable, Michigan, in 1889. She sailed in the Lake Michigan lumber trade until she collided with the Pere Marquette on 28 May 1900. Today, she lies upright and intact in 210 feet of water northeast of Sheboygan. Her hull is fractured from the collision, but her foremast remains standing with a rigged yard.
Survey of the Car Ferry Milwaukee

One of the main survey projects of the 2014 season was the survey of the car ferry Milwaukee. Wisconsin Historical Society archaeologists conducted a Phase II archaeological survey of the Milwaukee to augment extensive photography and videography used to document the site during the field seasons of 2012-13. The steam-powered rail car ferry Milwaukee was launched in late 1902 at Cleveland, Ohio, and entered service as the Manistique Marquette and Northern I in early 1903. The vessel foundered during a brutal storm on the night of 22 October 1929, and remains the worst car ferry disaster in Great Lakes history. Today, the vessel is located three miles east of Fox Point, Wisconsin, in 120 feet of water on the bottom of Lake Michigan. Archaeological investigations unveiled information previously contested about the car ferry’s sinking, including the number of rail cars on board the vessel when it sank, and the fate of the vessel’s bent sea gate. The ship’s unique combination of maritime and railroad history, as well as the mystery and tragedy surrounding her loss, continues to fascinate both professional and avocational historians alike. A National Register of Historic Places nomination was also completed for Milwaukee this season, reviewed by the Wisconsin Historic Preservation Review Board in late November.
Apostle Islands Brownstone Quarry Docks Survey

In a joint project with the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, funded by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, Historical Society archaeologists surveyed the submerged remains of the brownstone quarry docks on Stockton, Hermit, and Basswood islands in September 2014. The Apostle Islands Brownstone Quarry Docks Survey focused on recording the remains of the brownstone quarry operations in the area to augment information for the national park. Archaeologists and a team of four volunteers spent two weeks documenting the quarry docks and the adjacent shorelines. Although seemingly a straightforward task, the weather, along with the remoteness of the islands made documenting the sites a challenge. During the archaeological survey, site plans of each of the quarry docks were produced, along with photo and video documentation of the cribbing, and associated artifacts discovered amongst the old timbers, including, numerous pieces of cut stone, quarrying tools and derricks, rail cart implements, and a few personal items. Historical research of each quarry is currently being completed and collected for a site report.
National Register of Historic Places Boundary Expansions

The 2014 season included new National Register of Historic Places boundary expansions for two protected archaeological districts in Wisconsin, in Door County and just north of Milwaukee. The Jacksonport Wharf Archaeological District was added to the National Register in 2012 and includes three shipwrecks, Annie Dall, Perry Hannah, and Cecelia, and the remains of three historic piers, LeMere’s Pier, Hibbard’s Pier, and Reynolds’ Pier. Since 2012, the shoreline of the bay has receded nearly 150 feet, uncovering additional maritime resources previously buried in the sand dunes. The high water levels and sand movement in the area uncovered a previously undocumented rudder, an additional piece of hull from one of the nearby shipwrecks, and the lower hull of a pound net boat, located in the surf zone next to LeMere’s Pier. Due to the recession of the shoreline, and the augmented high water mark, an additional 12 acres along the shoreline were added to the district to encompass the newly uncovered cultural resources.
Survey of the Schooner Hanover

The 2014 season began with the discovery of the schooner Hanover, located on Hanover shoal, just south of the Strawberry Islands near Fish Creek in Door County, Wisconsin. Hanover is a 188-ton, two-masted schooner built in Irving, New York, by C. Stevens in 1852. Measuring 109 feet long, Hanover served primarily in the grain trade in the Great Lakes until 1867 when it ran up on the Strawberry Reefs during a gale in November of that year and was considered a total loss. The vessel’s rigging, mainmast and anchor were later salvaged. Today, the vessel rests in 18 feet of water just off shore of Fish Creek, with the entire bilge intact. No zebra or quagga mussels covered the vessel’s ceiling planking at the time of documentation, indicating that the vessel had been mostly buried in sand until recently. A Phase II archaeological survey of Hanover was completed in June, and a site plan was completed. As one of the earliest discovered centerboard schooner in Wisconsin waters, Hanover remains an important key in Wisconsin’s role in the early Great Lakes grain trade. Currently, a National Register of Historic Places nomination is being completed for the site.
Survey of the Lady Ellen

The Lady Ellen is a 42-ton, two-masted scow schooner that was built in Ahnapee (now Algoma), Wisconsin. She was later rebuilt and enlarged at Algoma, and spent much of her career carrying commodities and goods to and from that community. She eventually outlived her usefulness and was abandoned in the Ahnapee River in 1907. Today, her lower hull remains where she was abandoned, and is often visible protruding from the river during periods of low water.

The results of this 2011 survey greatly added to the growing list of scow schooners that have been documented in Wisconsin waters, including the Ocean Wave, Iris, Tennie and Laura, and Daniel Hayes. Although the scow schooner was vital to many early Lake Michigan communities, this vessel class is poorly documented in the historic record and their construction and use are poorly understood today. The archaeological surveys of the Silver Lake and Lady Ellen will greatly contribute our knowledge and understanding of this poorly-understood vessel class and its role in shaping Wisconsin.
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